Editor’s note: Albert “Butch” Hopkins was a dominant figure in community development in the District. He died last week at age 71. Here’s an obituary written by The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis. Below, we are publishing an appreciation written by Philip Pannell, the executive director of the Anacostia Coordinating Council and a longtime Ward 8 resident and activist. Hopkins’s funeral will be Friday at 10 a.m. at Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, 1725 Rhode Island Ave. NW.
I cannot remember when or where I first met Albert “Butch” Hopkins. He had been such an ubiquitous presence at Anacostia events and affairs that it seemed as if he had always been and would be around.
In 1994, Arrington Dixon became chairman of the Anacostia Coordinating Council, and he asked me to help run the organization. That is when I began to know and work with Butch, who was an ACC founder. My first impression was that of a man who was about his and the community’s business and knew how to take care of both.
As the Anacostia Economic Development Corporation chief executive and president, he touched the lives of thousands of residents. He loved and celebrated his African American roots, people and history. His ancestors may have picked cotton in the blazing sun. and he, too, picked cotton — at Neiman Marcus, where he purchased some of his colognes. Butch was smart and stylish, sensitive and sarcastic, savvy and successful. He supported the Washington, Anacostia and Ward 8 communities in many ways and was generous with his time, wisdom and money.
Butch had his detractors, but they were few. Some were impatient with the slow pace of development and blamed him for it. He had influence and style and was not hesitant to show it. At the ribbon-cutting for the Good Hope Marketplace, an Anacostia Economic Development Corp. project, then-first lady Hillary Clinton was there. He reigned supreme at the AEDC’s annual scholarship brunch, a truly elegant affair, and, if you made it to his hospitality suite, he entertained while his guests watched the game and enjoyed good drink and food.
Butch gave me the opportunity to be the bartender at those hospitality-suite events, and I always invited some young community activists to assist me so that they could mix with some of the District’s movers and shakers. Butch liked that I would invite the young folks to work and schmooze, and he always rewarded them with tips (monetary and advice).
The work that I do as executive director of ACC has been greatly enhanced by my association with Butch. He always had sound advice and was always supportive of me and ACC projects. It will be difficult for me to adjust to not having him around. However, two years ago, Butch counseled me to have ACC take out “executive director insurance.” He told me that he and I were getting old, that we would not always be around and that it was important for organizations in Anacostia to be sustainable and not falter once those at the helm are gone. That was vintage Butch Hopkins: always keeping it real.
Three years ago, Anacostia had its own Cherry Blossom Festival, and three cherry trees were planted and dedicated to Marion Barry, Butch and me. The Washington Post covered the event. Although I felt inadequate and undeserving to be honored in the same company as those two community giants, I thought that there was something symbolic about the trees being planted by the Anacostia River.
This week, I went to see Butch’s tree and took my Bible (New International Version) and read Jeremiah 17:8. “He will be like a tree planted by the waters that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
We in Anacostia will be reaping Butch’s harvest for years to come. Thank you, Butch, for planting your seeds.